Tips for Apple Picking with Kids

Tips for Apple Picking with Kids

Apple picking in the fall is a time-honored tradition for our family. Each year during apple picking season, we head out to our local u-pick apple orchard and stock up on this delicious treat. The kids love the hay rides to the field and running through the rows of apple trees to find the best fruit. I love making a huge vat of apple sauce and how it fills my whole house with the sweet scent of fall (and a touch of cinnamon). Today, Meghan Garriott, Illinois mom of three, shares all the best apple picking tips for kids, plus a few favorite kid-friendly apple recipes so you can put your pickings to good use. So, get on board the apple wagon, and let’s get picking! 

Tips for apple picking with kids and kid-friendly apple recipes and crafts

Apple season

Nothing says Fall quite like Apples.  Their colors, smell, flavors, and orchard experiences are Autumnal staples. They have all the reds, greens, and golds of the changing fall leaves.  The smell and taste of caramel apples and apple pies brings me right back to the happy Autumns of childhood.

Harvest for these favorite fruits spans the whole fall season from August to November giving everyone plenty of time to enjoy the season. Today we are talking about all things APPLE and the many ways you can enjoy them with your kids!

Benefits of apples

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. We’ve probably all heard this saying, right? They may not be a cure-all but apples do have many health benefits in addition to being a delicious treat for all ages. Apples are are a great source of fiber and vitamin C. The fiber in apple skins helps to feed the good gut bacteria as well as keeping things moving through the digestive tract as they are supposed to. An apple a day was linked to 28% decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. So while it is a sweet snack, at only 90 calories, it’s one you can feel good about eating and feeding to the whole family. 
Two boys with bags of apples in front of an apple tree

Types of apples 

There are so many types of apples. They vary greatly in their season availability and their taste. Below are some of the most popular varieties, what they are best used for, and when they are in season. Apple season runs from August to November for reference. 

  • Gala – Early picking season. sweet flavor. Good for salads, snacking, and freezing.
  • Red Delicious – Mid to late season picking season. Mild flavor. Good for snacking.
  • Granny Smith – Mid to late picking season. Tart flavor. Good for baking and snacking.
  • Fuji – Midseason picking. Very sweet. Good for snacking and salads.
  • Honeycrisp – Early picking season. Juicy and sweet flavor. Good dessert apple.
  • Macintosh -Mid picking season. Sweet and tart. Good for baking and snacking.
  • Jonagold – Late picking season. Sweet and tart. Good for snacking salads and sauces.
  • Pink lady – Late season picking. Sweet with some tart. Good for baking and applesauce.
  • Ambrosia – Mid picking season. Sweet and Crisp. Good for baking and snacking.
  • Golden Delicious – Mid picking season. Mellow and sweet. Good for snacking, salads and baking.

Child laying on ground under Apple rainbow

U-pick apple farms and orchards

Picking your own apples either at the store or at a local apple orchard is a great family activity. Visiting your local u-pick orchard it’s a great way to support local businesses and shop small. Our local orchard Okaw Valley Orchard grows a wide variety of apples and fresh fruit and veggies, and also carries many products from many other local businesses as well. Letting children pick out their own food items from the farm market can help children try new healthy foods or encourage picky eaters to give things a try. 

No matter where you live (in the US), there’s a good chance that you have a local apple orchard or pick your own farm nearby. Apples are grown all across the US and are usually available starting late summer through the fall (late October or early November). U-pick orchards are also everywhere. To find an orchard or u-pick farm near you, check out and search by your state and region. 
Two children picking app,es

What to know before you go apple picking

Before heading out to the orchard be sure to check out the orchard’s website, Facebook page or other social media channels. Different types of apples have varying seasons. Know what’s ripe in your area (and how you’ll use it), so you know what to pick (and how much). If you are in search of a certain variety it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for when they will be available. The orchard may also have specific times or dates for picking your own apples.  Many orchards host school tours and events. Checking their website or social media can help you plan your trip on a less busy day, and ensure you get all the products you are after.

You’ll also want to know if there’s an admission fee to pick apples, the price (per pound) of apples, whether they take credit cards, what’s available in the farm store, etc. 

Two boys picking apples

Apple picking with kids

Apple picking with kids is a fun and easy outdoor fall activity for the whole family. Every year we make it a point to make a day trip to go pick apples and it’s become a family tradition that we all look forward to. Apple picking is easy enough for little kids (although, they may need some help reaching the high ones) and still fun and enjoyable for older kids (and adults). Apples are available around us from late August through early November, which means we could even go a few times a season in order to get the best varieties for our treats (see below) in a wide variety of weather. Our local apple orchard has a ton of fun activities for the kids that keep us busy all day. 

What to pack for apple picking with kids

The good part about apple picking is that you don’t really need any special gear or items. If you have a long drive, pack accordingly for your car ride (toys, entertainment, water, and lots of snacks). Depending on the weather, you may need layers, sunscreen, bug spray, a raincoat, boots, or a jacket. We always pack a change of clothes (because you just never know with kids) to keep in the car. And maybe bring along some cash and/or change for any events, rides, activities at the orchard. 

For the most part, the only thing you need to pick apples is a container to hold them. Most u-pick farms will provide bags, baskets, or buckets for holding your apple haul. However, check to make sure before heading out the door.

Finally, don’t forget to bring along a camera! Apple orchards make beautiful backdrops for pretty family photos. 

Boy in blue shirt picking apple

How to pick and choose your apples

When it comes to picking your own apples right off the tree, there are some things to keep in mind to make sure you get the best apples and to ensure the tree is unharmed so we have apples for years to come.  Kids tend to want to just pull the apple down until it comes off. Unfortunately, this method can damage or break branches on the apple tree. To pick effectively without damaging the tree remind kids to “twist, then pull upward”. This helps to loosen the stem and preserve the tree branches.  

Before twisting and pulling check the apple to make sure there are no openings in the skin and give it a little squeeze before picking to make sure it is firm and not squishy. Little ones might be tempted to fill their bags with apples from the easy-to-reach ground so you may want to double-check them to make sure they are free of soft spots. 

If you plan to do some baking keep an eye out for “seconds specials”. Seconds are apples that may not look great on the outside but are perfectly fine to eat. These ripe apples are best for baking, where their skin imperfections will go unnoticed. 

Exploring an apple orchard with kids

Most orchards have more to do than just picking apples, which is great because kids can sometimes be over the picking part quickly. Local apple orchards can offer a wide variety of games and activities, such as hayrides, bonfires, tractor rides, corn maze, pumpkin cannons, pig races, train rides, cider mill tours, pony rides, live music, pumpkin patch, scenic wagon ride, a petting zoo full of farm animals, farm stand, beer garden, wine tasting, food trucks, bounce houses, carnival rides, face painting, and more! The food is usually delicious too – bratwurst and burgers, funnel cakes, ice cream, apple cider doughnuts, and fresh apple cider, of course! 

Our local orchard has a playground outside and a lot of products to browse through on the inside at the market. Many of these products are made with or pair perfectly with apples like bbq sauce, cinnamon apple jellies, and ciders.  Our favorite thing to get inside our local orchard store is cider slushies and cider donuts! Local orchards are also a great place to start some of your holiday shopping with small gifts like soaps, home goods, and delicious canned goods. 
Boy looking at apples in store Two boys drinking apple cider slushees

Kid-friendly apple recipes 

Visiting the orchard is fun but let’s be honest, the best part is eating! Apples can be sweet, savory, and even spicy. They can be used in so many different dishes. Here are a few recipes that kids will love to help out with and eat!

Sweet apple treats

Apple chips– Thinly slice a cored apple. Place slices on parchment paper. Sprinkle slices with cinnamon. Place slices in the oven at 200 degrees cooking low and slow for about 2-3 hours until they are nice and crisp. As an added bonus the house will smell delicious as these cook! 

Apple roll-ups– Using pre-made crescent roll dough sprinkle each dough slice with some cinnamon and sugar. Place one apple slice in the middle of the dough then roll up and bake as directed on the packaging. These make great afternoon snacks!

Apple nachos– These are very customizable and fun to make. Use apple slices as you would chips in traditional nachos. Then cover the slices with all your favorite toppings, we used peanut butter, chocolate, chocolate chips, and marshmallows. Nuts and caramel would be delicious toppings as well. 

Apple donut rings– Core and slice apples crossways. Decorate slices using peanut butter, Nutella or marshmallow cream for the “donut icing”. Then have fun with the toppings using chopped nuts, chocolate chips, and sprinkles. The “icing” can be difficult for little fingers to spread so it worked best for us if the adults did the spreading and the kids did the decorating. 

Two boys making apple nachosChild decorating apple slices

Savory apple recipes for kids

Turkey apple grilled cheese sandwiches– Spice up the traditional grilled cheese with some deli turkey, cheddar cheese, and some thin-sliced apples. To apple it up even more add some apple butter. Then prepare just like you would traditional grilled cheese. If you happen to have a panini press that would work as well!

Apple beer bread– This apple beer bread is the perfect combination of apples, honey-wheat, and cinnamon. Plus, it only takes 5 minutes to prepare, so you can enjoy it soon without the long wait. Try it warm with a slathering of butter (or spiced butter!). 

Apple and pork breakfast sausage– In a bowl combine ground pork, shredded apple, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Form the mixture into small sausage patties. Cook the patties in a skillet for about five minutes per side until golden brown

Apple crafts for kids

If eating apples is just not going to happen, don’t worry! Apples can also be used to feed wildlife and for kid crafts. 

Apple stamping– Cut an apple in half, paint the cut side and use it as a stamp to get a perfect apple-shaped silhouette. Stamp on a paper tree or fill a paper basket with stamped apples while learning about apples at home without going to the store or orchard. 

Apple suncatcher– Use construction to cut out a large apple outline. In the center of the outline, use contact paper and colored tissue paper to decorate the apple. Hang on windows to let the sun illuminate the tissue paper. This is a fun way to decorate for fall. 

Apple bird feeder– This is a great way to use apples that may have imperfections or soft spots and aren’t going to get eaten. Cut the apple in half. Hollow out the center of the apple. Fill with peanut butter then coat with birdseed. Then hang in a tree for birds, and probably squirrels, to enjoy. 
Boy holding apple bird feeder

A favorite fruit 

Apple picking is one of those wonderful fall activities that’s fun for the whole family and is sure to be a great time! Hitting the orchards is one of our family’s favorite fall traditions and a fun way to get outside and enjoy the cooler weather and fresh air. Apples are a favorite fruit for kids and adults alike, and for good reason. With all of their uses and their many varieties, they can easily please a wide range of people. There is no shortage of fun and delicious things to do with apples. So get out to your local orchard and start picking today!

About the author

Meghan is a country living, mom of 2 boys in rural central Illinois (with a baby girl on the way). She is a Physical Therapist Assistant by trade but spends most of her time outside with her family. At home, she has large flower, herb, and vegetable gardens to tend to and 3 large dogs to play with. As a family, they enjoy hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and helping her in-laws show and raise livestock. Photography became a hobby while in isolation after her oldest son’s bone marrow transplant. It has since become a passion to capture her family’s daily life. Throughout her family’s journey with rare disease and transplant, the outdoors have been a safe space for the whole family to grow, learn, and thrive.

You can find more from Meghan online in the following locations:
Instagram: @meghangarriott
RWMC posts: Meghan Garriott

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